Old Park evacuees begin arriving in Kremmling
A thick plume of gray smoke hung in the skies above Kremmling Wednesday afternoon as emergency personnel worked to evacuate the remaining residents of Old Park as the Silver Creek Fire bore down on the unincorporated community northwest of Kremmling.
The order to evacuate Old Park came shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday and sent numerous local residents hurrying away from the Silver Creek Fire, which officials were pegging at 3,324 acres as of Wednesday afternoon. Among the local citizens who evacuated Old Park after the Grand County Sheriff’s Office issued the evacuation order was Travis Kummer and his parents.
“My parents house is going to be one of the first three to go,” Kummer said. “Last I heard from the firefighters it was cresting over the snowmobile parking lot off of 100 there. It is less than half a mile from 164, the top road on Old Park.”
Kummer said he and his parents plan to stay in a camper near Wolford Mountain Reservoir now that they have evacuated.
“My mom is hysterical,” Kummer said. “They’re older, they’re retired. They are probably going to lose everything they have been working for their whole life. Life goes on and we will get through it.”
Kummer noted that in addition to his parent’s home he also owns a place in Old Park, roughly two miles away from his parent’s residence.
“It is hard,” Kummer said. “There are a lot of older people up there that are maybe going to lose everything. When I left the fire it looked like a red tornado. It is angry and pissed off. There’s a lot of people up there, hopefully they can do a good job and be safe.”
Residents of Old Park were slowly trickling into the fire’s evacuation center at the CSU Extension Office in Kremmling late Wednesday afternoon to check-in with local officials and to drop off livestock and other animals at the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo grounds. Shortly before 5 p.m. over a dozen individuals or families were already checked in with local authorities.
Andrew Klotz has been staying with family members who own property up in Old Park recently and when the evacuation order was sent out Wednesday he and his sister-in-law rushed to the area to grab the last of their livestock: ducks and a rabbit named Oreo. The family had already moved a pair of goats to Kremmling the day before. Klotz said he would be staying with family members in the Kremmling area.
“It (the fire) was coming down the valley,” Klotz said. “The wind was blowing towards the southeast. It looked like it was coming right down.”
Klotz said his family’s property is mostly removed from the heavily forested segments of Old Park and as such they were feeling relatively optimistic about the survivability of their land.
“Of course it is very unnerving to get that call to get out of there and then see all the firefighters, sirens blazing, going up the road,” Klotz said.
Volunteers assisting at the evacuation center said they had already received four horses, two goats, a rabbit, roughly 50 birds and numerous vehicles from evacuees. Lacy Stovner, 4-H coordinator at the CSU Extension Hall, said there was still plenty of room for additional animals to be brought to the fair grounds by evacuees.
“We have lots of space,” Stovner said.
While residents of Old Park scrambled in the midst of the tumult created by the conflagration citizens in Kremmling were offering their assistance to other people in need.
Don Ohotto stopped by the Extension Office at around 4 p.m. and notified the evacuation center that he was offering space in his home for evacuees to sleep that night.
“I live here in Kremmling and we know quite a few people who live up in the sub-division that are being evacuated,” Ohotto said. “I am just offering a couple of bedrooms for them to be somewhat comfortable while they are being displaced.”
The Red Cross was in the midst of setting up an aid center Wednesday evening at the West Grand Middle School on Kinsey Avenue in Kremmling. Local officials said the aid center would be open starting at 7 p.m. A post-evacuation community meeting is scheduled for 9 p.m. at West Grand High School.
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.